Italy The third and final post

I just realized that I have neglected to tell you the rest of the story of our trip to Italy.  I left off here; we were just wrapping up our time in Rome.  I won't bore you with the details of the bus ride from Rome to Florence. It involved our tour guide Lorenzo talking non-stop for two hours, stopping at a small Tuscan town with nothing to do, followed by another two hours narrated by our tour guide.  It was a long journey with the non-stop ramblings of Lorenzo.  Anyway, once we arrived in Florence we had the common problem of the full sized coach bus not being able to drive down the narrow road that the hotel was located on.  So we circled the hotel for awhile and then ended up parking at the end of the street.  There was some arguing between the hotel staff and the bus driver as to who would haul our entire luggage up a city block to the hotel.  I am not sure who won but someone drew the short straw.  Just for the record, B.J. offered to carry our bags and he was turned down.  

 
That night we asked the front desk for restaurant recommendations.  They pointed us to  La Rotunda!  Oh my goodness, La Rotunda!!!...ack sorry I was day dreaming.  The following statement is blatantly obvious but one that did not occur to me right off: Florence is known for their leather goods; therefore Florence is also known for their steak.  I deserve a smack on the forehead for not figuring that one out. I could have really used a steak at that point in the trip after the endless pasta meals.  So we ventured off to La Rotunda, which was a few blocks from our hotel.  I had tagliata ai Carciofi e Parmagiano: slice beef steak with artichokes and Parmesan cheese.  I'm telling you this dish was heaven, and they do not skimp you on the meat either.  This was probably a 12 ounce sliced steak, cooked to perfection (They cook steak medium to medium rare in Italy which is perfect for me) with tons of artichokes and FRESH Parmesan cheese.  Oh the cheese in itself was fabulous but the combination of foods made me smile from ear to ear.  The steak was so tender, so easy to cut, perfectly spiced, Oh my!  That was a fabulous, melt-in-your-mouth-stuff-your-gut-heavens-singing-praise-darn-good steak!   I also had patate al Forno, roasted potatoes with Italian spices, but who cares! The steak!  Did I mention the steak?  That is the best steak I have had in YEARS!  I loved it so much that the next night we went back to La Rotunda and I had the exact same thing.   I think B.J. had (no surprise) pizza the first night but I know the second night he had tortellini and Parma ham in Alfredo sauce, which he found to be delicious also.  The Florentines do not know how to eat a balanced diet.  All of their foods are heavy with cream sauces or slabs of meat.  In other words, I was a huge fan of Tuscan cooking.
 
We went to the Uffizi Gallery where we saw Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.  We also saw the Academia Museum that holds the famous Michelangelo statue of David.  It was great to see such famous artwork that I studied in college.  It is always one of my goals when we travel to see as much of the artwork as I studied as possible.  We walked around the the Plazzo Vecchio, walked over the famous Ponte Vecchio Bridge and saw the outside of Santa Croce basilica and the famous Santa Maria del Fiore.  We also did some souvenir shopping.
 


Before we left, Ian’s teacher gave us some cash to buy her a cool souvenir while we were there.  This proved to be a tougher task than we originally thought.  In Rome, we thought we had tons of time and did not pick up the beautiful Venetian glass that we saw in a cute little shop.  As our time drew to a close in Florence we began to worry about what we were going to buy for Ian’s teacher.  When we were standing in line at the Uffizi gallery on the day before we left, we watched several watercolor artists who were lined up in the alley in front of the museum painting pieces that were for sale.  This one artist in particular caught my attention. In any other setting he might appear homeless but he happily sat on his stool painting away and chatting to customers here and there.  The painter, whose name turned out to be Asso (I’m not sure if that is a first or last name), managed to capture Florence from interesting perspectives.  Again, we put off buying souvenirs, although I’m not sure why.  We decided to return to the Uffizi later that day to buy a painting from Asso.  He was a jolly old guy whose olive face crinkled up when he smiled.  He was missing at least one tooth and dressed like a vagabond.  I picked out a Florence cityscape for Ian’s teacher.  I asked how much the painting was and he said “for the pretty lady 25 euro...normally 35 euro.”  I decided to look for one for us as well and found a great painting of a street corner of Piazza Vecchio. I asked how much for the two paintings and again he said “for the pretty lady 50 Euro for both,” like we were getting a great deal.  He chuckled while he was working on making us a makeshift portfolio out of cardboard and said that all of the other artists get jealous of him when he sells paintings.  It was really going to make them mad that we were buying two paintings from him and none from them.  That night on the way to dinner (which was unremarkable because I didn’t have THE steak!), we saw a quaint English/Italian book store.  We managed to find a “learn to speak Italian” book for children that listed both English and Italian phrases.  It also came with a CD so that the kids in Ian’s classroom could hear how the language is spoken.  We figured this would be perfect for a classroom activity.  After we got back, we presented Ian’s teacher with the gifts.  Needless to say the gifts were a big hit and the painting is hanging in her living room now!
 
Florence was easier to get around in than Rome, much smaller and less busy.  The people, in general, were nicer and far less annoyed of tourists than the Romans. I was obviously a big fan of the food.  I would go back to Florence in a heartbeat just to go back to La Rotunda again.  Our trip to Italy was unforgettable.  We enjoyed the adventure and spending 8 days together as a couple.  I will always treasure this trip.  We have great memories and even better stories to share that will last a lifetime.  Ciao Italy!

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